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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Column: The end?

Are you familiar with the phrase “happily ever after”? It’s often used to conclude children’s classic stories, particularly the romantic kind featuring prince charmings and princesses. Do you know which two-word phrase comes right after it? It’s the phrase “The End,” which signals to the reader that the story is over. There’s nothing left to question, to analyze or to anticipate. It’s the end of the story, and the end of the world you were temporarily immersed in.

Unlike the fairy tales many of us grew up on, there are no neat conclusions in real life. There are no endings, because everything builds on everything else. Real life is a lot more complicated and twisted and messy. The conclusions are either unsatisfactory or nonexistent.

Take, for example, the story of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was shot by George Zimmerman in his Florida neighborhood on his way home. Martin was young, unarmed and carrying a bag of skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. He was also a black male, wearing a hoodie, walking through a suburb after the sun had gone down.

Although Zimmerman claimed to have shot Trayvon out of self-defense, many people across the nation and the world believe that he initiated the altercation that led to Trayvon’s death due to racial profiling. Many believe that the incident was a hate crime, and if not that, at the very least manslaughter.

When it came to light that Zimmerman was a free man due to a technicality in Florida’s law that allows people to kill out of self-defense, outrage spread throughout the U.S., sparking protests, demonstrations and threats to Zimmerman’s life. The courts would ultimately decide his innocence or guilt, but why wasn’t the man even arrested? A young boy was dead and his killer was walking free.

On April 11, Zimmerman was finally arrested and officially charged with second-degree murder, answering the wishes of Trayvon Martin’s family and his supporters. If this was a children’s tale, the story would conclude at this point with a definitive “The End” or maybe even a “happily ever after” preceding it, depending on your viewpoint. But this is real life. On April 23, Zimmerman was released from jail on a $150,000 bond. He is once again a free man.

The most recent events of the case fall under the recurring pattern of life, in which nothing ever really turns out the way you expect it to. In college, we’re faced with so many situations where we think that we can finally make out the finish line, only to be thrown for a loop, and, of course, when we least expect it. We question the things that happen to us and come up with few answers, if not more confusion.

The power behind this challenging time is that it forces us to keep pushing through and to confront the uncertainty. There’s so much to deal with: growing into or out of friendships, changing as a person, finding out that you no longer want what you thought you wanted out of life, learning about injustices in your country and abroad … as we come across unforeseen, often frustrating situations, we learn to accept the fact that there will be questions without the answers and beginnings with no ends. In other words, we grow up.

Through my personal experience, I’ve learned that when you close a chapter or have an answer for everything, you’re attempting to deceive yourself in order to remain in the haven of certainty. It’s too easy to set your sights on one endpoint and ignore all the other factors that come into play.

For some people, the arrest of Zimmerman was the cause for which they were championing. Those people will now have to re-evaluate what they see as the end goal. They will have to do it again after Zimmerman goes through trial, whatever the outcome is. Similarly, as college students, we are continuously challenged to redefine ourselves, our world and our goals, because the things we’ll face tomorrow are based on our actions of today.

Contact PAMELA NONGA NGUE at pamnonga@ucdavis.edu.

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